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Chetro Ketl Ruin, Chaco Culture National Historical Park 
- New Mexico 


DEC 1 1 1992 




of cremated 

remains creates 


Entering the soft, grey twilight of the Washing- 
ton Cathedral, one slips into a pew, the silence disturbed 
only by the soft sounds of other travelers who have also 
stopped at this great sanctuary. 

They come to look, to pray, to collect them- 
selves, or to seek a restful moment 

Think now of the walls removed. In place of the 
pews there is a red desert floor, hardened by thousands of 
footprints. The altar is now a kiva. 

Nothing has changed. The space is still sacred, 
even without ceilings and walls. People still come here for 
much the same reasons as do the travelers to the Washing- 
ton Cathedral or to a little church in any small town in 

But unknowingly, deeply held customs and 
practices are sometimes violated. 

... At Chaco Culture National Historical Park in 
New Mexico early in 1992, a Navajo maintenance crew 
employed by the National Park Service discovered 
cremated human remains spread in the "great kiva" at 
Casa Rinconada. 

Navajo belief dictates that the dead must be 
avoided and their burial places left undisturbed. To 
expose themselves to locations or things associated with 

'Ancestors are still there 
... Spirits are still there.' 

the dead could adversely affect their personal health and 
well-being. Family members could be affected as well. 

The "cremains" were carefully removed and 
returned to the family of the deceased. 

The incident prompted the Southwest Region of 
the National Park Service to draft a new policy, which 
went into effect in 1992. 

Permits to scatter cremains will no longer be 
issued in Southwest Region parks where American Indian 
sites represent the prominent resource. 

Burial permits may be issued for interment only 

Inscription House Ruin, Navajo National Monument - Arizona 

jn established cemeteries. No burials of any kind are 
allowed outside designated cemeteries. 

The Southwest Region encompasses Louisiana, 
Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and the 
northeastern one-fourth of Arizona. 

Even as the policy was being put into effect , 
cremated human remains again were spread in the great 
kiva of Casa Rinconada. 

The problem is a serious one that can have an 
adverse effect on both the Navajo and Puebloan people, as 
well as on other American Indians. 

In the Southwest Region mere is a great, 
ongoing concern for American Indian lifeways and 
respect for the cultural past, as well as for their current 
cultural patterns and traditions. 

Descendants of the earlier inhabitants still 
maintain their cultural traditions and ceremonies in the 
environment of lands and structures administered by the 
National Park Service. For instance, some of the lands 
where Navajo now live were once occupied by ancestors 
of current-day Pueblo people. 

Ruins at sites all over the southwest may look 

... Intentions are the best, but 
the results often are in serious 
conflict with traditional Beliefs 
of the Indian people. 

merely like ruins to the visitor, "but they aren't aban- 
doned by any means," an Indian employee of the 
National Park Service points out. "Ancestors are still 
there. Spirits are still there. The Pueblo people still visit, 
still consider it the same as going to a lived-in place. And 
there is respect for all these sites among all the Indian 

Many national parks were created to recognize 
particular ethnic groups and their cultural heritages. 
Examples include Cape Krusenstern National Monument 
in Alaska which exhibits native Eskimo culture, Kaloko- 
Honokohau National Historical Park in Hawaii which 
preserves the native culture of our 50th state, Nez Perce 
National Historical Park in Idaho which deals with the 
history and culture of the Nez Perce Indians, and the 
French Quarter unit of Jean Lafitte National Historical 
Park and Preserve which interprets ethnic populations of 
the Mississippi River delta region. 

In Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas and 
Utah, at least 23 park units were created specifically to 
preserve aspects of American Indian heritage. Many other 
units throughout the West also contain the ruins and 
sacred sites of some of these cultural groups. 

* * * * 

Diagram of the Great Kfva at Aztec Ruins National Monument 

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■ : 

White House Ruin sits at the base of the sheer red difts in Canyon de 
Chelty National Monument 

View of 12th Century Wva and the reconstructed Great Kiva at 
Aztec Ruins National Monument - New Mexico 

^^^ ^^^ 

. . . for the benefit 
and enjoyment 
of the people 

Yellowstone National Park's founding in 1872 
marked the beginning of a national system designed to 
protect America's most precious natural and cultural 
resources "... for the benefit and enjoyment of the 
people," (Act of March 1, 1872). 

The National Park Service was officially 
established on August 25, 1916, by the "Organic Act" to 
" promote and regulate the use of the Federal areas as 
national parks, monuments, and reservations ... by such 
means and measures as conform to the fundamental 
purpose of said parks, monuments, and reservations, 
which purpose is to conserve the scenery and the natural 
and historic objects and the wildlife therein and to provide 
for the enjoyment of the same in such a manner and by 
such means as will leave them unimpaired for the 
enjoyment of future generations." 

Within the National Park System are more than 
350 areas covering about 80 million acres in all 50 states, 
the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto 
Rico, Saipan and the Virgin Islands. 

Although most Americans are familiar with a 
number of national parks - such as Yosemite, Grand 
Canyon and Yellowstone - many may not be aware that 
places such as the Jefferson National Expansion Memo- 
rial in St. Louis, the Statue of Liberty - even the White 
House - are managed as national park units. 

The National Park Service is charged with the 
guardianship of some of our nation's most valuable 
natural, cultural and historical resources. These resources 
are inextricably woven into our national heritage and 
constitute the sights, the scenery, the environments, the 
people and the events that are the elements of our charac- 
ter as a nation. 

An understandable expression of this elemental 
link is the desire of some Americans to have their remains 
interred on park lands. Many units of our National Park 
System actually contain national cemeteries; others retain 
established cemeteries of historic communities or have 
family plots within their boundaries. For instance, the 
Great Smoky Mountains National Park has more than 100 
cemeteries inside its boundaries. 

Management of established cemeteries on 
national park and monument lands falls under federal 
regulations and policies by which all parks and visitors 
must abide. 

View from Talus House Toward Tyuonl Ruin at Bandolier 
National Monument - New Mexico 

Spider Rock towers over sacred Indian lands in Canyon 
de Chelly National Monument • Arizona 

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Southwest Region 

policy on human burials 

and the spreading 

of cremated 

human remains 

National Parks whose primary purpose is the 
preservation of cultural heritages shall not be used for 
human burial, except in designated cemeteries . 

~ Park superintendents will not grant permits to 
anyone to scatter human cremation ashes in these parks by 
any means; for example, spreading by hand at a ground 
location or dispersal by aircraft flyover. 

~ Superintendents are empowered to take the 
necessary steps to prevent the unauthorized scattering or 
burial of cremation ashes or any other type of interment 
outside designated cemeteries. 

Southwest Region parks whose primary re- 
sources do not relate to the culture and history of Ameri- 
can Indian tribes or other ethnic groups, or do not contain 
evidence of pre-Columbian or historical American Indian 
cultures must conform to: 

- National Park Service Management Policies, 
1988 - (Chapter 8:16- Cemeteries and Burials). 

- Code of Federal Regulations (36 CFR 2.62 - 

Inquiries should be directed to the Office of the 
Superintendent of the park in question. 


Protecting cultural heritage : 
I 29.2:H 42/3 

3 ElOfl D^fiB T5Efl 



Southwest Region 

P.O. Bok 728 

Santa Fe, NM 87594-8728 



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